Kurt Vonnegut at the Algonquin

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Photo: New York Magazine, December 18-25, 2000


At the end of 2000, New York did a "My New York" issue. For it, 50-odd New Yorkers told us about their favorite places in the city, and Kurt Vonnegut, who died yesterday, spoke fondly of the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel. Growing up, he told contributing editor Logan Hill, he'd never been to New York but knew the legend of the Algonquin. When he arrived here for the first time to meet his sister, she asked him where they should meet. Not knowing anywhere else, he told her to meet him there, by the grandfather clock he'd seen in pictures — and in subsequent years that's where he would always meet friends. After the jump, his reminiscence as printed in the magazine.

One image keeps looming and looming: the grandfather clock in the lobby of the Algonquin hotel. I'm an immigrant to New York, you see. I didn't come across the ocean, but I came up from the Middle West. And The Algonquin, for a Middle Westerner of my generation — I was born in 1922 — was our imaginary literary hotel. In 1950, I was a P.R. man working for General Electric in Schenectady, delivering stories and so on to press organizations in New York. One day I just walked in, as anyone is free to do, but for me, well, I had the same feeling when I first saw Venice, which was, Am I allowed to see this? I felt at home there, and it remained a symbol of my arrival in New York and my home away from home, a beacon, a lighthouse for a Middle Westerner.


Kurt Vonnegut: A Midwesterner Finds Literary Welcome in the Lobby of the Algonquin Hotel [NYM, PDF]